Do you want to mess with cops legally? It may not be a good idea but you could say stuff to them and get away with it—they’re humans after all, and your servants.
Perhaps, an unfortunate cop pulled you over on a wrong day, and you want to vent it. It could be that you have zero trust for cops or you just want to live on the edge. Whatever your reason, just getting a little mouthy with cops won’t land you in jail—it’s a way of getting in their head for the day.
It’s legal to mess with cops (but not advisable)
Technically, it’s legal to smart off to a police officer. Don’t forget your first amendment right to free speech and free expression. That is to say that you can tell a police officer exactly what you have in mind, as long as you do it civilly without causing a public disturbance.
In the heat of the moment, however, if it goes down to your word against the cops, the court may take the officer’s, unless you have evidence to back yours up. Meanwhile, here’s a straightforward way to land an officer in trouble (if they did anything unlawful).
How to mess with cops legally
Since you can technically smart off to an officer, how do you do it and not get in a mess yourself? Below is a respectful way to mess with cops legally:
1. Try not to aggravate the officer
Don’t do anything to aggravate a police officer—a bad idea any time. The police may be an agency of hardworking individuals looking to give you peace but they can also be as*ses. They have the guns, nightsticks, and handcuffs, and the larger part of the law is in their favor.
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In as much as they are trained to make your life easier, they can as well make it miserable when you cross the line. It starts with an arrest and then you find yourself paying unnecessary fines. In extreme cases, it gets in your record that you’re a cop hater.
The idea is never to get carried by the heat of the moment.
2. Be calm
If you really must be nasty, yell, or say something provocative to a cop, try to do it calmly and quietly in a conversational tone. Make sure you have your video recorder running to keep the officer’s possible reaction at bay.
3. Work in political comments
Try to work in some political comments in the middle of the event to help enhance your claim about protected political speech.
4. Don’t use threats
You can yell at the police officer, ask them to F off or shut up but don’t use threats—verbally or non-verbally.
Do not also touch or throw anything at the police officer. Besides, you might face simple assault charges for using words, threats, or actions that make a police officer fear impending violence—New Mexico Criminal Law Offices.
Avoid stomping around and acting like a fool. The point is to be calm and polite while spewing your venom in a non-threatening manner.
5. Shut up
You could just smile, think your actions to yourself and shut up. It saves you time, energy, and lots of trouble. If you get in trouble for messing with an officer, contact your local attorney at once.
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What if your rights were violated?
If your rights were violated by a police officer, note down everything you remember, including the badge of the officer, patrol car number, the officer’s agency, and any other details. Obtain contact information for witnesses.
If injured, seek medical attention immediately. Make sure to have photographs of your injuries.
Finally, file a written complaint with the internal affairs division or civilian complaint board of the officer’s agency. You can anonymously file a complaint if it applies in your jurisdiction.
What if you witnessed police abuse or brutality?
You shouldn’t go messing around with the officers. Instead, do the following:
a. Don’t interfere
You can record video of the event with your phone camera but do not interfere or stand close enough to obstruct their actions. You have the right to observe and record any abusive event that is visible in public spaces.
b. Make your recording obvious
Don’t hide the fact that you’re recording the incident. An officer can’t expect reasonable privacy while doing their jobs. However, the person being abused may have privacy rights, so notify them of the recording.
c. Don’t consent to officers asking for your phone
A police officer may not confiscate or demand the photographs or video you have without a warrant. Thus, they can’t delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
If you’re ordered to stop recording or hand over your phone, politely but firmly say “I do not consent to it”. Remind the police officer that you can rightfully take photographs or video under the First Amendment.
Some officers may arrest you for not complying. Their orders are illegal, and the arrest would be unlawful. Weigh the personal risks of arrest, including the possibility that you may be searched upon arrest, against the value of recording.
d. Write down everything you can remember
Ensure to write down everything you can remember during the incident, including:
- Patrol car number
- Officers’ badge
- Officer’s agency
- Number of officers present at the scene and their names
- Any use of weapons, including batons or tasers
- Injuries suffered by the person being stopped
e. Speak to the stopped person
If you can speak to the person stopped by the officers, they may need your contact information to file a complaint or pursue a lawsuit against the police officers.
If you witness a cop engaging in an extreme act such as aggressively trying to stab someone with a knife, you may attempt a citizen’s arrest on them, only if you determine that it is worth it.
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